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Stobo Castle


Stobo Castle has formal terraces around the house and a water garden with three lakes and a waterfall, all dating from the early-20th century. The surrounding parkland has some 18th- and 19th-century plantings. Situated in a steep gorge and planted with ornamental trees and shrubs, the water garden has a Japanese flavour in style, ornamentation and planting. The house is currently (2008) a health spa.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

Type of Site

Mature parkland landscape surrounding an early 19th-century castellated mansion, with late 18th to 19th-century estate infrastructure and an important example of a large, Edwardian, Japanese-style water garden. Extensive coniferous forestry occupies former estate woodlands in the south-west of the designed landscape.

Location and Setting

Stobo Castle, by Stobo village, is located 6 miles (9.5km) to the south-west of Peebles and is set within the upland valley of the middle Tweed. Occupying the rising ground above the north bank of the river, the designed landscape is located at the heart of the Upper Tweeddale National Scenic Area. The wider landscape is characterised by the meandering river, prominent hillside woodlands and forestry blocks and the strong relief of the narrow, steep-sided valley and flanking, round-topped hills. While the forestry plantations of Dramore and Dreva Wood on Quarry Hill in the south-west of the designed landscape are typical of the wider valley landscape scenery, the central parkland around Stobo Castle is of more notable scenic significance. The gently shelving ground towards the north west of the designed landscape, meanwhile, is of interest for a late prehistoric fort, just north of the Easton Burn valley, and the medieval parish church of Stobo. A long distance walking trail, the John Buchan Way, leads through this part of the designed landscape along the Easton Burn. The Weston Burn, another tributary of the Tweed, flows through the centre of the designed landscape and is the source for an artificial lake and the Japanese Water Garden. Outside of this secluded garden space in the tributary valley, views from the designed landscape extend along the Tweed valley, across to Dawyck (q.v. Inventory) on the other side of the valley, and south as far as Dollar Law, the highest point of the Southern Uplands at 2,680 feet (817m) above sea-level. The Castle and immediate grounds are run as a hotel and health spa while the surrounding policies are owned and farmed separately as part of the Stobo estate. The designed landscape encompasses some 342ha (845ac). It is bounded by the B712 road to the south, the outer edge of the forestry plantations to the west, the course of a track to the north, and field boundaries to the east. The former walled garden is no longer in use, and is physically divorced by from the remainder of the designed landscape. It is therefore not contained within the boundary.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Stobo Castle is a symmetrical, castellated mansion built 1805-11 to a design deriving from Inveraray Castle, Argyll and Bute, by Archibald and James Elliot. Built from random whinstone with sandstone dressings and central tower, it comprises a main 3-storey block with corner towers and a transverse 4-storey block, which carries the high central tower with chimney flutes. The substantial porte cochère (a porch large enough to admit wheeled vehicles) was added to the north front in 1849 by Edinburgh architect John Lessels, while on the west elevation, the double stone stair to the upper garden terrace was added c.1907 by Peddie & Washington. To the rear, kitchen and stable courts extending from the south elevation were converted for spa use with glass roofing in 1997-8 and a glazed swimming pool extension to the south was built 2003-4. Both were executed by Ron Cameron of R. D. Cameron Associates. To the north-east, Home Farm, c.1804, consists of a square court of offices and farmhouse, with additional mid to late 19th-century block and turreted tower. Just downslope from this complex, Stobo Mill, also c.1804, was rebuilt as a granary following a fire in the early 20th century, but retains a picturesque front façade. Access routes to Stobo Castle feature a late 18th-century, segmental garden bridge over Weston Burn and three entrance lodges; the picturesque, whinstone West Lodge (c.1820), the square-plan Garden Lodge (c.1812), with red sandstone Tudor stacks, and the gabled, mid 19th century East Lodge. The former estate walled garden, (c.late 18th century and now disused), stands opposite the Garden Lodge on the other side of the road (and outside of the designed landscape boundary). Early 19th century accommodation for estate workers along the main road include the East Lodge Cottages, originally a pair of coursed whinstone cottages, built c.1804, and the Stobo Newhouses row, 1812-13, also of coursed whinstone, and close to the Old Smithy and Workshop (outside of the designed landscape boundary). The mainly 12th-century Stobo Parish Church in the north-east of the designed landscape is considered the most complete and impressive Romanesque parish church in the Borders (Cruft et al. 2006: 699). The associated churchyard is notable for a range of 17th and 18th-century tombs and gravestones. Distinctive architectural features in the immediate vicinity include the L-shaped, Glebe House (former Manse), built 1791, with additional wing built to the front in the 1840s, and the Manse Stables, a courtyard range of coursed whinstone and re-used older masonry, including a carved stone dated 1645.

Drives and Approaches

The principal south drive, which is used by visitors to the Castle today, enters at the Garden Lodge and winds uphill through the parklands to the north-east of Stobo Castle. Lined by veteran lime trees, it leads over the garden bridge, constructed in the late 18th century, and a clue to the approximate date of this approach route. Closer to the castle, this drive and the older lime avenue follow different courses, indicating a slight alteration of the late 18th century design. The east and west drives, meanwhile, are now simple track-ways. Established by the time of the first Ordnance Survey (1855-8, OS), and with surviving early and mid-19th century lodge buildings, these drives formed longer, probably subsidiary approach routes. Leading from the minor road at Altarstone, the west drive skirts the southern edge of Drummore Wood. The grassed-over east drive, which is no longer accessible from the main road, leads initially to the Home Farm complex before continuing to a surfaced track around the northern edge of the loch.


Landscaped parkland extends around the castle in the central part of the designed landscape and is crucial for the castle's setting and the wider scenic value of the area. Enclosures around the former mansion of Hill House were originally created during the early 18th century, (The Statistical Account 1792: 328) with further planting undertaken from the mid 18th century-earlier 19th century by the Montgomery family. Although there are now much fewer specimen trees and clumps compared with the core policy landscape of the 19th century, there remain a good number of attractive and mature trees, including a few veteran lime and oak specimens (of probable 18th-century date) and sycamore, ash and conifers (established during the earlier-mid 19th century). Elms standing in the later 20th century have since succumbed to Dutch Elm disease, while presently, beech trees in the loose clump to the north-east of the Castle are showing signs of becoming over-mature.


Although the character of the woodlands at Stobo has undergone significant change, the essential structure of the design can be traced to the mid-18th to mid-19th century when intensive planting campaigns led to the creation of a large area of woodland on the site of the present Dramore and Dreva Wood on Quarry Hill (depicted on Armstrong's map of 1775), and smaller tracts of trees along the Weston Burn, and to the south and south-west of the castle and terraced gardens. The sparsely planted woods on the sloping ground to the south of Stobo Castle were developed as a shrubbery during the 19th century and now retain a mixed deciduous character interspersed with mature conifer specimens and a few surviving rhododendron hybrids. The extensive blocks on Quarry Hill, meanwhile, have been under the ownership and management of the Forestry Commission since the 1960s and are composed almost entirely of zoned coniferous plantations.

Water Features

One of the most distinctive elements of the designed landscape is the Edwardian Japanese-style Water Garden, located in a narrow gorge to the north of Stobo Castle and created by the then owner Hylton Philipson in collaboration with landscape designer Edward White (1873-1952). The garden was developed alongside other projects intended to generate hydro-electric power from the Weston Burn and to form an ornamental loch within the castle grounds. Initial work from 1907-08 focused on damming the burn higher up in the hills, (beyond the designed landscape boundary) while the second, lower loch was excavated from 1909-11. This large, serene water feature remains a strong scenic component in the present parkland landscape. The water garden itself, meanwhile, formed the third phase of the project, completed in 1911-13. According to Longville, the original idea sprang from a suggestion by Philipson's brother-in-law and a subsequent visit by Philipson to Japan at the close of the 19th century (2008: 82). Although Edward White provided plans, including a design for the hump-backed bridge and a plan for a 'wild garden' (1911), which appears similar to the finished garden, Philipson is usually credited as the driving force behind the final ensemble (RCAHMS MSS/499/17; Longville 2008: 82).

The water garden is composed of a series of inter-linked and sluice-controlled pools, flowing waterways, cascades and rills; the water-supply for which derives from the loch above via a dramatic 20 foot (6 metre) high waterfall. Decorative rockwork around the waterfall conceals the earth dam used to seal the loch, while a path above, complete with wooden Japanese railings, serves as a good vantage point for the lush, densely-planted gardens as a whole. Below, the garden can be navigated by winding paths, stepping stones and bridges, the most impressive of which is a recently-rebuilt, hump-backed 'japonaiserie' style bridge, originally conceived by Edward White. The planting scheme features hardy natives (beech, hazel and chestnut) along the upper levels of the gorge, while lower down, the water-side collection exhibits specimens typical of similar gardens of this scale and date. Among rhododendrons, maples and conifers are a number of more exotic trees and shrubs, many of which have been classified as 'County Champions' on account of their girth and/or height (County Champion database 2009). They include a Japanese umbrella pine, (Sciadopitys verticillatera), a Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), (uncommon when it was first planted at Stobo), Disanthus cercidifolius (a rare Asian shrub) and two rarely seen Japanese natives; a Japanese Horse Chestnut, (Aesculus turbinata) and an impressive, tall Kalopanax, (Kalopanax septemblobus var maximowiczii). The gardens are maintained via a long-established programme designed to renew and maintain their historic character, mitigate losses from storm-damage and to ensure replacement plantings.

The Gardens

Stobo Castle Terraced Garden is maintained immediately to the south of Stobo Castle. First created by Hylton Philipson, c.1909-12 it comprises a narrow upper terrace approached from an ornate double flight of stone steps leading down from the former 'smoking room' of the castle and, below, a larger, rectangular terrace contained by a low stone terrace wall to the south, with outward-bowed central section. It replaced earlier Victorian lawns and flower gardens. (A plan for a fairly complicated garden scheme was drawn up by John Hay in 1872, but it is unclear whether this was ever executed (RCAHMS MSS/499/17. The terrace is maintained as a simple lawn, although faint undulations in the mown grass reveal the location of former gravel paths that once intersected at a central fountain. Large specimen yew trees in this garden may have once formed part of a topiary design, while small neat rhododendron bushes along the upper terrace were planted in the late 1990s to replace older, overgrown bushes. One of the most recent additions is a large, wooden sculpture known as the Stobo Castle Eagle. Located in the informal grass and shrub garden alongside the terrace, it was created in 2008 by chainsaw carver Rodney Holland from the stump of a fallen veteran beech.

Walled Garden

The walled garden complex is no longer in horticultural use, and is not contained within the designed landscape boundary. Situated opposite the garden lodge on the other side of the B716 road, it may have originally been built in the late 18th century (Cruft et al. 2006:704). Comprising a rectangular, walled enclosure, with semi-rounded corners to the south, the garden was set within a larger walled productive complex during the 19th century that included ancillary buildings, plots and yards, and which could be accessed via a carriage drive circuit that ran between the outer and inner walls. Sales particulars drafted in 1903 give some indication of the late Victorian character of the main garden enclosure, referring to glasshouses that encompassed a 60 foot long conservatory, 3 vineries and peach-houses, a melon pit, mushroom-house, and kitchen grounds well-stocked with fruit trees and plants, and divided by ornamental beech and yew hedges (NAS GD293/2/54). Photographs dating to the 1970s show a narrow, straight grass path bordered by thick, densely stocked herbaceous borders and reveal that the garden survived the preceding period of war-time and post-war neglect. Following the sale of the walled garden in 1971, it was used for pheasant rearing during the 1980s before falling into disuse.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The water gardens only are open occasionally under Scotland's Garden Scheme. The house is a health spa. For details see:


Mr and Mrs H Seymour


The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

Reason for Inclusion

The early 20th-century, Japanese-style water garden is an exceptional representative of this historic form of landscape design, and the range of exotic water-side trees and shrubs offers considerable horticultural interest. The landscaped parks at the centre of the designed landscape are crucial to the setting of Stobo Castle, an early 19th-century mansion of national architectural and historic interest.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Later 18th to mid-19th century (castle and parkland), 1907-1913 (water garden)

Site History

The present designed landscape is a creation of 18th to 19th-century improvement, planting and building work undertaken by successive generations of estate owners, with early 20th-century projects resulting in the present terraced gardens by the Castle and the impressive water garden on Weston Burn.

The name Stobo enters the historical record during the 12th century when it is named as part of the wider estate of the Church of Glasgow (Buchan and Paton 1927: 489). Successive post-Reformation owners of the land included prominent Borders families such as the Earls of Morton, the Maitlands of Thirlestane, the Tweedies and, eventually, the Murrays at the start of the 17th century. A later member of this family, Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, is generally credited with initial landscape development work at Stobo during the first half of the 18th century. An estate survey map prepared by Andrew Bearhop c.1740s, along with Roy's Military Survey (1747-55), gives an indication of the character of the landscape by this period. It shows a mansion called Hill House approximately on the site of the present castle at the centre of a small estate comprising enclosed parks crossed by several tree-lined avenues and bordered by a few small-scale plantation strips. Alexander Murray's son, David, inherited the barony of Stobo in 1743, but his involvement in the 1745 uprising and subsequent banishment and exile to France led to the forfeit of the estate and the end of the Murray tenure (Buchan and Paton 1927: 489-95).

The next phases of development took place under the influence of the Montgomery family, who owned the estate from 1766 to 1901. Sir James Montgomery, a notable lawyer, politician, landowner and eventual Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer was a prominent Peeblesshire figure, known for 'thundering down the road from Venlaw to Peebles in his four-horse carriage' (Chambers 1864: 265). Montgomery clearly had the financial wherewithal to execute further improvement works at Stobo. During the second half of the 18th century, key elements of the present designed landscape began to take shape through planting projects on Quarry Hill and in the parks, the establishment of the south drive and, possibly, the construction of the walled garden. Montgomery's son, also Sir James, continued this work and it was during his lifetime that the design really came together, leading to later 19th century generations of commentators to admire the appearance of this country estate, otherwise set within a relatively harsh upland valley landscape. The early decades of the 19th century were a period of bustle and labour as the old Hill House was demolished and Stobo Castle erected in its place. In the surrounding policies, entrance lodges, estate buildings, and further woodland planting projects established Stobo as a typical early Victorian residential and agricultural estate with attractive parks and maturing trees. By the 1880s, Stobo was acclaimed for a clutch of veteran trees, and grounds that were 'well laid out and finely wooded' (Groome 1885: 399). Sales particulars of 1903 commend the scenery, 'bracing climate' and the 'well-sheltered, early and productive' walled garden (NAS GD293/2/54). Conifers in the policy grounds, including a large Wellingtonia, meanwhile, bear witness to the typical mid-later 19th century fondness for planting newly available exotic trees and shrubs.

The deaths of two generations of Montgomerys in quick succession in 1901 and 1902 led to the sale of Stobo and its purchase by Hylton Philipson. A well-known cricketer, Philipson also took a close personal interest in the development of the estate and took the lead in implementing two key projects; the terraced gardens that lie to the south of the Castle, and the loch and Japanese-style water garden, developed in tandem with a scheme to generate hydro-electric power from the flowing water of Weston Burn (1905-13). The estate remained with the Philipson family until 1939 when Stobo was purchased by the Countess of Dysart. The crisis of the war-years, however, meant that the castle was rarely inhabited. Parts of the wider estate were subsequently sold during the years 1941-71, while both built and garden features began to decline.

In 1971, much of the former estate was purchased by Leo Seymour in 1971, while the castle and immediate grounds were quite promptly sold to the Winyard family, who developed the site as a hotel and health spa. The converted castle was formally opened to guests in 1978 and is still in use today. Developments beyond the castle walls have included a tennis court, car-parking, swimming pool extension, modern staff and guest accommodation blocks and the establishment of way-marked paths around the grounds. The water gardens remain in the ownership of the Seymour family, along with the surrounding grazing land of the designed landscape.


Early 20th Century (1901-1932)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • Waterfall
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  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Stobo Castle is a symmetrical, castellated mansion built to a design deriving from Inveraray Castle, Argyll and Bute, by Archibald and James Elliot. Built from random whinstone with sandstone dressings and central tower, it comprises a main 3-storey block with corner towers and a transverse 4-storey block, which carries the high central tower with chimney flutes.
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  • Lake
  • Description: Three lakes.
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Key Information





Principal Building

Health And Welfare


Early 20th Century (1901-1932)





Open to the public


Electoral Ward

Peebles and Upper Tweed




  • Historic Scotland